How much is a life worth?

Human rights advocate, Mary Francis. [PHOTO: Stan Bishop]

HUMAN rights attorney Mary Francis is perhaps the most misunderstood justice rights advocate in Saint Lucia. She has been associated with a number of cases locally, including some which involve police-related killings. Among the most famous of these was the Vieux Fort Five killing, which notoriously formed part of the IMPACS investigation.

Francis is a go-to for media practitioners who want a varied perspective as it relates to matters in which human rights may have been violated, but for many residents of Saint Lucia, her battle simply makes no sense, as she is seen by those who do not understand her mission, as being an advocate for criminals.

Unless one understands fully the scope of human rights, and that even persons who have been accused of a crime, or are incarcerated have a right to be treated decently, the efforts of Francis, and others in her field will continue to be misunderstood.

Thankfully, despite the threats that many on this same path often receive, there are also sweet moments of vindication. Like this week, when a Babonneau family won a case against the state which involved the unlawful killing of a man named Mandy Louisy in 2013. Francis, who fought the long and tiring battle on behalf of his family went on record to express her satisfaction with the ruling, but also her dissatisfaction that it would seem that the value of human life, in this case, was far too low.

From 2014, Francis had fought against bureaucracy and red tape in getting the civil case filed. The case had featured many inconsistencies, including whether or not the deceased had brandished a knife in the encounter with police (full story here).

Despite the fact that the family had to wait over five years for justice, only $14,000 was awarded, which was the sum determined after the legal assessment of the loss of life, which even took into account whether or not Mandy was gainfully employed at the time of death. Attorney Mary Francis did not agree with the ruling, but she has since spoken out to express the need for further action as it relates to ‘righting the wrongs that have been done’, beyond the results of the civil case.

It is left to be seen where this case will go in the coming weeks and months, and hopefully not years, as it is cases like these that set the precedent for cases which might very well come up in the future.

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